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Judges find search wasn't valid under 4th Amendment

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has found that a woman’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures was violated and a trial judge erred in not suppressing evidence found during a home search.

In Pamela J. Hensley v. State of Indiana, No. 63A01-1105-CR-195, the Court of Appeals examined a Pike Circuit case involving a woman whose home was search by police following a tip that her husband, who was on probation, possessed marijuana. Police went to check the home and Pamela Hensley let them inside where they found marijuana and generic Xanax under a mattress. After finding those substances, police obtained a search warrant and discovered rolling papers, a pipe and prescription bottles.

The state charged Hensley with felony possession of illegal drugs, maintaining a common nuisance and possession of paraphernalia. Before trial, Hensley filed a motion to suppress the evidence and the trial court denied that request but certified the case for interlocutory appeal.

The appellate judges rejected the state’s argument that the search was a probation search – not an investigatory search – and was reasonable. The judges cited a 2001 ruling from the Supreme Court of the United States in United States v. Knights, 534 U.S. 112 (2001), that a search may be justified if it related to a probationer engaged in criminal activity.

But the Indiana judges found the police were “pursuing their own agenda” and conducted an investigatory search under the guise of a probationary search. To qualify as a constitutional search under Knights, the police would have needed to have reasonable suspicion that Robert Hensley engaged in criminal activity.

In a footnote, the judges wrote that because their holding is the search was illegal under the Fourth Amendment, they weren’t addressing the question about whether it was valid under the Indiana Constitution.

The appellate panel remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings.

 

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